Max Payne 3 – Review (PS3)

I never actually played much of the first Max Payne and certainly didn’t touch the second one. Nothing at all against those games but at that stage of my gaming life it just wasn’t what I wanted to play.

Having seen the franchise change owners and land up in the hands of Rockstar Games I was quite excited to see what they would do with it.

This third instalment sees Max at rock bottom – drunk and addicted to painkillers while working as low rent security for a wealthy Brazilian family down in South America.

As you can imagine things go wrong quickly and Max is left trying to pick up the pieces while fighting his own demons.

Graphically the game looks fantastic, taking in various different areas/scenes as Max’s adventure continues. Some wonderful use of bright colours really makes a difference and reminded me at times of the Uncharted series.

The comic book style of the cut scenes was fairly refreshing and overall the game oozes the class that Rockstar normally stamp on their products.

The band Health provide a truly great soundtrack (check out ‘Tears’ here, it’s pretty amazing) and the developers have really dialled up the grittiness. Max Payne 3 is one of the darkest games I’ve played in a while and it made a nice change to play something that didn’t mind getting it’s hands dirty, so to speak.

There were complaints from some quarters about the slow-mo kill cam and how graphic it is. I can see how that is a valid argument but I feel it fits in with the rest of the game so it wasn’t a problem to me.

On the gameplay front it took me a while to adjust to how fragile Max is (which makes sense as he’s an old ex-cop with two crippling addictions πŸ˜† ) but once I got used to the fact that, even in bullet time, two or three shots will kill you I went with a more conservative play style and the frustration was gone.

One thing that surprised me a little was just how much fun the online multiplayer is – I found myself coming back again and again to stick another few hours in. The highlight there for me is the Gang Wars mode, which is a much more fleshed out version of Killzone 3’s ‘Operations’ mode.

Most enjoyable and I like the fact that for the first few hours you’re only playing against other ‘noobs’. Once you hit a certain rank the game opens up and you’ll be playing against players of varying levels. It’s a nice way to ease people in.

My complaints about the game were mainly directed at a handful of misplaced checkpoints, which led to me having to replay *another* firefight before getting back to the one I died in – frustrating at times.

When Max Payne 3 flows it is a wonderful, gritty, dark yet vibrant gaming experience. Unfortunately it doesn’t always flow. I was expecting big things from this game and Rockstar have delivered for the most part but some minor niggles along the way mean Max Payne 3 doesn’t quite hit the heights I’d been hoping for.

Rating: 8/10

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L.A Noire DLC – Review (PS3)

As more and more publishers attempt to keep players locked into their game beyond the campaign on the disc, DLC is seemingly a must for almost every title. Does L.A Noire deliver the goods with this DLC or should you give it a miss?

After playing the main game I stumped up for the ‘Rockstar Pass,’ which granted access to all the upcoming DLC for a cheaper price upfront. So, after a few months away following my completion of the game, I returned to find I had all of the DLC cases ready to go.

The cases don’t add much to the story – they slot in between the cases you’ve already played so it was quite cool to hear some of the dialogue between the characters, knowing how things eventually played out.

You get two Vice cases (The Naked City and Reefer Madness), a traffic case (A Slip Of The Tongue) and an arson case (Nicholson Electroplating).

Each case is around the 90 minute / 2 hour mark and they mainly follow the same pattern as the rest of the game. You’ll be sent to investigate a crime scene and then interview / interrogate witnesses before the case comes to a conclusion.

As is to be expected of most DLC, if you liked L.A Noire then you will enjoy these extra cases. I particularily enjoyed Nicholson Electroplating – the way the case opens was pretty fantastic and captured a great vibe.

I’m not sure of the individual cost of these cases but for the Β£7.99 I paid for the pass I felt I definitely got my money’s worth. Nothing as groundbreaking as the original title but good fun and a nice extension of the game.

Ratings:

The Naked City – 6/10

Reefer Madness – 7/10

A Slip Of The Tongue – 6/10

Nicholson Electroplating – 8/10

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L.A Noire – Review (PS3)

L.A Noire has been 7 years in the making, with use of a brand new facial motion capture technology that has wowed almost everyone that’s seen it.

The game takes place in 1940’s L.A, with you taking on the role of Cole Phelps – recently returned from the war and starting out as a cop on the beat.

While a lot of people felt that L.A Noire would be a 1940’s GTA (much like Red Dead Redemption was a Western version of GTA in many people’s eyes) Team Bondi have crafted a much more linear experience than expected.

Your time playing as Phelps is mainly investigative and interrogation work, which in my opinion is a good direction for them to head in. Although you have freedom in the sense of not finding all the clues/messing up the interrogation etc your partner will often point out stuff you’ve missed and while you sometimes have the option of who to charge, just as often the game plays out regardless.

You do have the opportunity to break free in the city, however what you can actually do in this time is dictated by the side missions. By answering calls on your in-car radio (by pressing X) you can get a mission and be on your way. While you can leave the car when not on a side mission you can’t draw your weapon or hurt civilians, as this obviously wouldn’t be in keeping with the character of Phelps.

The investigative stuff in L.A Noire is pretty cool, with your character moving around the crime scene and checking out points of interest (highlighted by a rumble on the pad and a chime sound – which can both be turned off if you really want to go Noir πŸ˜† ).

The interrogations really highlight the acting and the wonderful facial capture. While it’s not perfect it was certainly good enough to fool me on a few occasions. My main issue with the interrogation parts is that the ‘Doubt’ option wasn’t properly explained in my opinion.

When talking to people you have three options once they’ve made a statement; Truth, Doubt and Lie. From the options given I would’ve presumed Doubt to mean that Cole doubts the other character but isn’t sure. What it actually means is Lie but he doesn’t have a piece of evidence that backs him up.

This leads to several instances where Cole started screaming at a witness about lying etc when what I actually wanted was a gentle probe that may uncover more. It’s annoying even when you know what the Doubt option does when Cole’s response is so unpredictable.

Going back to the acting and it really is stunning at times. The stand out for me is LAPD Homicide Captain James Donnelly, played superbly by Andrew Connolly. He has to be one of my favourite video game characters of all time.

The story sticks to some Film Noir staples and, although a few bits niggle, on the whole it’s an enjoyable tale that plays out nicely.

L.A Noire’s soundtrack and score is also brilliant and really helps catapult you into a different era.

The game this most reminds me of is Heavy Rain, stunning captures of the actors and an interesting, if flawed, story. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature the numerous different endings that Heavy Rain does so you don’t ever feel the story is in your hands.

Everyone should play L.A Noire, it’s a bench mark title that has raised the bar for other games in terms of facial animation. Does that make it a classic? An outstanding game? I’m afraid not.

Rating: 8/10

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Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare – Review (PS3 DLC)

Following on from the stunning Red Dead Redemption, which took home my Game Of The Year award for 2010, Rockstar Games have served up Undead Nightmare – a large enough slice of downloadable content that it warranted it’s own retail disc release as well.

But isn’t Undead Nightmare ‘just another Zombie mode?’

In a way it is but at the same time it’s the best produced and enjoyable DLC I’ve encountered for a while.

A lot of DLC that arrives these days is for use within the multplayer part of the game – for example Battlefield: Bad Company 2’sΒ OnslaughtΒ DLC or Killzone 2‘s map packs. That isn’t the case here as Undead Nightmare also features an impressive single player campaign to boot.

In my playthrough I finished all of the main missions and side missions but certainly didn’t make it through all the challenges and other fun stuff there is to do. My finish time was a little over 7 hours, which actually puts a few other main game releases to shame.

The style of this DLC is very much tongue in cheek and is set up almost like a B-Movie in tone – with a wonderfully creepy voiceover and some great music.

The campaign finds John Marston trying to help find a cure for a plague-style disease that has hit the area and is turning the deceased into flesh eating Zombies.

This all takes place in parallel to the story of the main Red Dead Redemption game and I won’t be discussing anything else story-wise for fear of giving anything away. All I will say is that it was great to revisit some of the characters from the main game and that the campaign’s story was a lot of fun.

As Marston you’ll be tasked with helping out troubled towns as well as completing story based missions. When you first arrive in a town you’ll need to help the survivors fight off the Zombies before being able to use it as a save point and fast travel destination.

From time to time a ‘safe’ town will be struck again by Zombies and you’ll need to get back to help them out – once a town is overrun (all other survivors die) it is gone forever, so it is worth giving them a hand.

Speaking of overrun the online part of this expansion, Undead Overrun, is truly panic inducing. I thought Seige mode on Uncharted 2 (in which you face wave after wave of enemies) was tough but my word, Overrun tops it. More for the sheer mental torture it inflicts as between four players you try your best to survive as long as possible.

Different types of Zombie come after you and at times there can be 20 or 30 of them chasing you. It really is tense stuff.

If you buy the retail disc or the full Undead Collection DLC you also get the previous few DLC packs which are strictly online but give you access to new gang hideouts and the ability to play poker and liar’s dice online (both brilliant) and also take part in horse races, along with a new territory based Free Roam game called Land Grab.

Overall then Undead Nightmare is a must buy if you loved Red Dead Redemption. You will easily get your money’s worth from the campaign alone but the multiplayer additions are definitely worth checking out – killing Zombies has never been so much fun!

Rating: 10/10

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